Get drunk on music. That’s the unofficial tagline for Echobox Audio’s streaming media player, the Explorer 1.
Echobox are a US-based company with strong ties to Japan. Their Director of Business Tom-san has lived in Tokyo for a number of years. He explains that the thinking behind the Explorer 1’s hip-flask form factor was borne of a determination to stay away from the angular metal of rival DAP manufacturers. Fair enough but Echobox’s design is certain to divide public opinion. Utterly batshit or wonderfully inspired? You decide.
In moving from prototype phase to the pre-production units seen on display at the Fujiya Avic 2015 headphone show, the Explorer 1’s case-wrap has been changed up from leather to wood. Three distinct finishes are planned for when it goes into production early next year.
The Explorer 1’s Wifi-equipped guts run on a derivative of Android 4.2. Full Tidal integration is already in the bag but users can stream LAN-hosted content to the player from any DLNA or Airplay source. There’s 64Gb of internal storage and a microSD slot on the bottom for those who prefer to BYO for playback when out and about. The unit clicks into life with a short push of the stepped volume pot on top.
As of right now, the Echobox unit supports PCM up to 24bit/192kHz with DSD arriving via a firmware update down the line. Also still ton the software development agenda is full Google Play store access.
D/A conversion is executed via a Burr-Brown PCM1972 DAC chip which Tom-san is at pains to point out is not the ‘A’ version often seen elsewhere. The Explorer 1’s PCM1972 chip was apparently used in a good many SACD player models of yore but is no longer commercially available. It was so chosen by Echobox for its heavier, weightier sound.
On headphone juicing from its 3.5mm port, the drinker’s DAP delivers 300mW into 32 Ohms – that’s good for portable-friendly cans – and at the higher end “enough for HD650 and T1”, according to our table host, Tom. An mini-Toslink output sits on the far side of the volume pot.
Echobox have yet to formally set an RRP on the Explorer 1 but are aiming for somewhere between US$600 and US$800. Before hitting stores however there’ll be be an Indiegogo funding campaign that will run some time in November; strictly for those wishing to save a few bucks by taking a punt on Echobox’s ability to stick to its Q1 2016 production schedule.
Further information: Echobox Audio